Designers To Watch: Abiola Olusola
LAGOS, Nigeria - Making it as a fashion designer is no easy feat wherever you are from; yet, the playing field is not equal for all. Recognizing creative talents who have forged strong paths in spite of the challenges ahead is vitally motivating, especially for those surfacing on the continent. Nigerian-born creative director Abiola Adeniran-Olusola embodies this emerging cohort of super bright talents with the persistence to succeed and the confidence to make it happen on their own terms. Founded in 2017, her eponymous label is built on an arsenal of timeless separates in rich hues that evoke effortlessness with ease. PROTOChic sat down with Adeniran-Olusola to peel back the layers on her inaugural Autumn / Winter 2017 collection and her future ambitions to build a design house.
PROTOChic: You garnered significant academic training under your belt before starting out on your own, studying at the University of Lagos, London College of Fashion, and the Marangoni Institute. In addition, you interned with major fashion houses in Europe, including Lanvin and Givenchy. What propelled you to seek out these learning opportunities and what inspired you to launch your own label back in Nigeria ?
Abiola Adeniran-Olusola: I always wanted to create clothes, and have my own clothing line. This is why I decided to study fashion design. I firmly believe that education gives you an edge that is beyond talent. Another reason I decided to study fashion design in Paris was to explore the world beyond what I was familiar with, find myself, and live freely. Studying in Nigeria taught me to be tough. Studying in Paris was much more about the culture, the people, the language, the food and so on than the education itself. Education is beyond the classroom and Paris opened my mind.
PC: Your brand is focused on contemporary African women. In your mind, who is today's African woman and why does she inspire you ?
Adeniran-Olusola: Today's contemporary African woman is any woman of African decent (or one that feels a connection to Africa) living in Africa or abroad, that knows the struggles and the joys of being African. She has several aspirations - she understands that although there are obstacles, through her tenacity, dedication, and God, she can break barriers. The African woman inspires me because of those reasons. It always seems like the cards are stacked against us; yet, African women continue to do amazing things at home and abroad.
PC: Abiola Olusola is proudly produced in Nigeria. What influenced your manufacturing decisions ? Why is #MadeInNigeria important to your brand ?
Adeniran-Olusola: The economy in Nigeria today plays a big role in why Nigerians are now looking inwards for growth. Initially, it wasn't a conscious decision. I had to make my clothes and that was the answer at the time. I have since become passionate about #MadeInNigeria because we are the generation that can make Nigeria into an economic force on a global scale and it starts with us appreciating our own.
PC: On your inaugural Autumn / Winter 2017 collection, you partnered with another Nigerian brand Bloke NG on knitwear. What are your thoughts on collaboration amongst fellow Nigerian designers ?
Adeniran-Olusola: I love working with creatives like myself. I think we all need each other to grow. I'm not a one-woman super power house. It's very important for me to work with people that have strengths in places where I may be weak. That's the beauty of life.
PC: You've been quite measured in your launch, selling in pre-order as one example. What do you envision for the future of Abiola Olusola ?
Adeniran-Olusola: I don't really like overexposure. I am quite reserved in my personal life and I guess it reflects in how my work comes across. However, I want my brand to be a household name here in Nigeria. I want to stick to ready-to-wear and I hope Nigerians become more interested in Nigerian brands, not just for aso-ebi. I also see my brand growing beyond Nigerian and African borders to the rest of the world.
This interview has been edited and condensed.